Here’s the best thing so far: after the first full day of teaching (8:30 to 4:30, with a lunch break), the Head Teacher at the Bulobi School sidled up to me, and said, “The students don’t want to leave!” And she was right – the P7 students, about the age of our seventh graders, had to be told to leave. They had completed two full rotations of math, science, and English, and they clearly loved the personal attention, the interactivity, and the chance to learn. We had to shoo the other students away from the windows of their classrooms!
Yesterday we spent almost an hour trying to teach in metal-roofed classrooms during a pouring rainstorm (we all kept stopping, hoping the rain would let up, but it kept raining harder and harder). We have settled into a rhythm, with morning and afternoon class sessions, but we are all pretty tired by the end of the day.
Fun Lasell result: one of our students, who is quite shy, spoke up at our evening reflection several nights ago. I had asked, as part of the reflection, “What makes you uniquely you?” She had participated in a workshop I ran at Lasell earlier in the year, and she had a lot of trouble answering that question. But she piped up and said, “Now that I’ve been on this trip, I know the answer to that question!” She also said that she always had trouble speaking in front of groups, but after two days of working with the Uganda students she felt much more confident about speaking in public, and much happier about her abilities in general.
We can already see some results from our work. As our students get to know the Ugandan students, we are able to see improvement in their math ability, more clarity in science, and rapid strides in their ability to write and communicate effectively in English (students in public schools in Uganda are not taught in English until fourth grade, although they have studied English as a classroom subject since grade one). We have discovered that we need to add a significant daily reading component next year – that is one area where the Ugandan students really lag behind, both in terms of training and resources.
I have personally found the Bulobi School to be almost overwhelming, even though I visited classes there last year. Although I think our teaching is, actually, making a difference for the P7 students, the occasionally teacherless classes, the clear disparities in the students’ preparation and abilities, the total lack of school supplies, the absence of books – the whole scene has renewed the sense of challenge I feel about this rural Ugandan school and village. I know we will come back, and it will take several years to start to create a better “learning culture” here but, at least for a few moments, it seemed like an outsized task. Of course, as soon as I shared this with our students, they started pelting me with suggestions and helpful ideas (part of why I love undergraduates!), and then went back to preparing for the next day!!
After three full days of teaching, the Bulobi students still have to be told to leave at the end of the day. We are more than half way through our time here (it has flown by), and the experience seems to grow richer each day. Thanks for your support!